"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls."
Traveling reminded me of her. I thought the excitement of France with its different smells, beautiful sites and distance from my routine would dull the pain, or at least cover it; like the bandaid of adventure and romance would smother the grief of my real life.
It didn't. The emptiness at times was more present then ever. It was as if the Nora-shaped hole in my heart had grown an inch with each mile further I traveled from my door step. Maybe my emotional state was a combination of grief from her death and the nervousness present when a mother leaves her child for the first time since their birth. (I did take a moment to sneak into her room and kiss her urn goodbye before we left even though I truly believe she is not there and is with me wherever I go).
This strange feeling, a combination of guilt for enjoying myself and deep sadness, crept up inside of me as I thought about our travels while waiting in line to visit the sights in Paris. The decision for fun and adventure came as the result of her death. An intentional way to distract from the pain. There was some guilt too, in the idea that I could have fun while my daughter was dead, combined with sadness because this trip was only happening because of our loss. Nick and I, after mulling over our shared feelings about it, called it a catch-22.
But, the trip did at times bring moments of joy and distract us from our grief. According to Dr. Louis E. Lagrand, in his book Healing Grief, Finding Peace, he states that, "Meaningful and pleasurable events have been shown to lead to a greater sense of well-being" during grief. Planning events and finding things to distract yourself and look forward to is a reliable coping strategy I also teach to my clients in therapy, for multiple situations that cause discomfort, as grief does. And on my trip I found moments when I really was distracted by the pleasures of travel and I forgot, momentarily, about my sadness. As when I walked the steps of Mount Saint Michele or when Nick and I strolled the streets of Houlgate hand and hand, pretending to be French in the quaint village on the northern coast of Normandy.
But certain moments of joy came coupled with moments of "if onlys". If only she would be able to experience this someday. If only I could give up this trip to get her back. I would you know, give up my love affair for travel to have a child, to have her. Ah, life, universe, God, whatever you want to call yourself, when I spoke into the ether and asked for another adventure, I did not mean a trip to Paris, I wanted my child. To take the journey into motherhood, not the Louvre.
I may sound spoiled and ungrateful for my trip to France. I am not. It has been full of welcomed moments of joy, distraction, and healing which are needed during grief. The lesson I learned is that you can't escape grief, travel away from it, or out run it. Grief travels with you. As a constant companion and reminder or your suffering, of your love. Moments of joy will find me still, while traveling with grief. I will just have to learn how to travel with both Joy and Grief. But, a little distraction by the joys of life always helps.
Healing Grief, Finding Peace by Dr. Louis E. Lagrand: offers 101 ways to cope with the death of your loved one. It also talks about different healing ideas and the importance of goal setting and distraction in softening grief.
Healing Your Grieving Heart After Stillbirth, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. and Raelynn Maloney, Ph.D. offers 100 practical ideas for parents and families to heal. It also highlights the importance of goal setting as well as other healing techniques I try out on my own grief and report on Instagram.
My Idea, make a list of things you like to do and enjoy. Rely on that list to help distract you from your grief when it gets to be too much. Ideas for distraction some of my fellow grieving mothers on Instagram recommended:
- start a new project
- write in journal
- think of a happy moment
- do a hobby you love
- self care like bubble baths, going for a walk, trying something new